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Kalanda: the Greek christmas carols


The carols may be one of the few texts that are preserved unchanged even today in many parts of Greece They are mainly associated with the big Twelve Day celebrations (Christmas, New Year, Epiphany). Through the song the young and the great "kalantistes" (singers of the song) discover the events of the day and worship the host, master and house. The Calandas (carols) are quite old and many are believed to be associated with Ancient Greece.

Their name comes from the Latin word "calenda", which means the beginning of the month, which was formed by the Greek verb "call". An invariable feature of this custom is the well-known tip, which today is usually a sum of money. In the past, however, they were mostly edible, such as sweets, pies, eggs, sausages, hens, almonds, pomegranates, wine, trachanas, flour, etc. That is why the “Calentistas” have been trying to say as many and better “good words”  as possible in order to get a better tip. A typical example is the carols of all the islands, where the singers devoted more time to adulate than  singing the events.

Of particular interest are the numerous varieties of jingle bells that exist throughout Greece. Almost every region, every island, many times and every village has its own, unique carols. The lyrics are tailored to the dialects and idioms of each region and the music to the tradition of each place. Typical examples are the areas of the Ionian Islands, Thrace, Epirus, the Cyclades, the Dodecanese, Pontus and Crete. It should be noted that in previous years the carols were not only sung but also played by traditional organ players. For this reason, they often resembled more traditional songs than carols.

Typical “kalanda” in Greece (and in greek language):

Καλήν εσπέραν, άρχοντες,

κι αν είναι ορισμός σας,

Χριστού την θεία γέννησιν

να πω στ᾿ αρχοντικό σας.


Χριστός γεννάται σήμερον

εν Βηθλεέμ τη πόλει,

οι ουρανοί αγάλλονται,

χαίρει η φύσις όλη.


Εν τω σπηλαίω τίκτεται,

εν φάτνη των αλόγων,

ο βασιλεύς των ουρανών

και ποιητής των όλων.


Πλήθος αγγέλων ψάλλουσι

το «Δόξα εν υψίστοις»

και τούτον άξιόν εστί,

η των ποιμένων πίστις.


Αν είστε από τους πλούσιους,

φλωριά μην τα λυπάστε,

αν είστε από τους δεύτερους,

ξηντάρες και ζολότες

κι αν είστ᾿ από τους πάμφτωχους

ένα ζευγάρι κότες.


Και σας καληνυχτίζομε,


πάτε να κοιμηθήτε,

ολίγον ύπνο πάρετε,

πάλι να σηκωθήτε,

στην εκκλησιάν να τρέξετε

με άκραν προθυμίαν

και του Θεού ν᾿ ακούσετε

την Θείαν Λειτουργίαν.